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Editorial: Salisbury, Rowan must find ways to reconnect

What makes a community?

Is it a group of people who live in the same place? Does it involve people who share common beliefs and values? What about getting together for events? Does it mean struggling through similar challenges?

There are many ways to define communities. And there are almost always communities within communities. There are, for example, many different communities in Rowan County. Many revolve around institutions like churches and schools. Churches are so much more than a place to worship; they spend much of their time on service projects that keep a community whole. Meanwhile, even those who don’t have school children can find themselves volunteering or involved in their closest school.

Lately, it seems, coronavirus has torn at the loose ends of the things that make Salisbury and Rowan County a community and deepened divisions that have been building for years. Even though some loathe to do it, most people wear masks in public places — a good thing! But basic facts are otherwise in dispute constantly.

And with so many things canceled or put on hold, it’s become increasingly hard to gather around a shared experience and experience the community together. No Cheerwine Festival. No Autumn Jubilee. Farmers Day in China Grove was called off. The Faith Fourth of July continued, albeit on a much smaller scale. There was no Juneteenth celebration or Salisbury Pride. Banquets, breakfasts, fundraisers and social events of all types simply aren’t happening. Whether or not Sunday services happen in person depends on the individual church.

Civic clubs are no longer as strong as they once were because of declining participation from younger generations, but they are still a critical cog in the community. Many have tried to meet online, but have not attracted the same scale of participation.

Maybe a restart to school, particularly if health protocols ensure COVID-19 cases are kept to a minimum, can help rebuild a part of the community fabric that we’ve lost in recent months. Particularly if sports can safely restart, it would be a major boost to community spirit.

Salisbury and Rowan County need shared experiences to help restore the fabric of community that we’ve lost amid the pandemic. Maybe our community’s leaders, whether they are appointed, elected or organically created can help bring us closer together. At the moment, that’s what’s needed most.

As the community looks for ways to reconnect with neighbors, acquaintances and friends, it’s worthwhile to reflect on words that County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds wrote in June in a social media post that this newspaper republished online on June 6 and in print June 7 (“Recommit to respect, common decency in Rowan County”).

“Exercise compassion toward one another and to those in need,” Edds wrote. “Recognize the divine spark that lives within every person you come into contact with. Be generous. Practice mercy. Put away hate. Love your neighbor as yourself. Talk less. Listen more. Pray for our community. Pray for our nation.”

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